Savage, Cowboys Back On Practice Field

STILLWATER - It was somewhat of a surreal scene with seven feet of snow bulldozed against the walls around the field, snow piled up in the stands and a handfull of onlookers dressed like eskimos the Cowboys took to the field for the first time Saturday since the hard-fought Bedlam loss. One player said that working out in the snow sure beats the alternative, which is being done for the season.

Head coach Mike Gundy and his staff put the team through a one-hour, 45-minute practice that emphasized special teams and run offense and run defense. The Cowboys aren't sure of what bowl they will be going to or who the opponent will be but it was nice to be practicing for a game on Dec. 2.

"The guys were flying around and they were having a good time," Gundy said of the start of bowl preparations. "We had a good practice today. We left seven or eight players out of practice out there today. We won't practice (Victor) DeGrate, (Patrick) Lavine, (Perrish) Cox, (D'Juan) Woods, (Nate) Peterson, and eight or 10 of them over there probably won't practice for another week. We want to give them two full weeks off and let their ankles, knees, hips and whatever else hurts to get a chance to heal up before we get them out there."

Gundy said there was nothing to the "internet" rumor that defensive end Nathan Peterson had a fracture in his ankle. It is a an ankle sprain.

"I joke with him that he will be donating his body to science by the time he's finished here," joked Gundy. "When you are his size and you push yourself to the level he plays you are going to have some injuries. But he is fine and he'll be ready to go (practice) next weekend."

An official with the Independence Bowl said Saturday that they still believe they will be hosting Oklahoma State and Alabama for their game on Dec. 28. The Independence Bowl will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN. Other bowl possibilities for the Cowboys include the Texas Bowl in Houston on Dec. 29, the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, or a remote possibility of the Insight Bowl on Dec. 29.

"I don't know anything," said Gundy. "You all know more than I do. (The Independence Bowl) is what I think but I don't ever get on a computer, so I don't know what is happening or who we are playing. We worked against generic offense and defense today."

Freshman Keith Toston broke off several big runs during the practice with one of them coming courtesy of a huge block by tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Julius Crosslin had the hit of the day as the Cowboys went "thud" tempo in helmets, shoulder pads, and sweat pants. Crosslin broke open a run up the middle and when linebacker Marcus Brown tried to make the stop Crosslin delivered the bigger blow with a pad popping sound that got the attention of everybody and drew oohs and aahs from teammates and onlookers.

Junior college transfer and season-leading rusher Dantrell Savage, who finished fifth in the Big 12 with 708 yards and seven touchdowns on just 107 carries, also broke off a long gain in the practice. He also spoke with the media for the first time as Gundy took the first year player no interview rule off for Savage, a player Gundy has compared to former Cowboy Vernand Morency, and whom others have seen Barry Sanders' like moves from.

"I feel happy," Savage said of the season. "I will get to do something I didn't get done last year, win a bowl game (Gulf Coast loss to NEO in a bowl last season). I am very excited about going to a bowl game. It's an honor to be compared to Barry Sanders and Vernand Morency, but I feel I am just me, Dantrell Savage. It is an honor to be compared to them."

Another subject that some of the media revisited was the quarterback situation from the Bedlam game where backup quarterback Zac Robinson played in a special empty-backfield, five-wide receiver set the Cowboys used against the Sooners. In Saturday's practice Bobby Reid took all snaps with the first team and Robinson quarterbacked the second offensive unit.

"It was what it was prior to the game and after the game," Gundy said of the quarterback situation. "You all (media) were the ones that tried to turn it into something. At the end of the game we were in a pure throwing situation and that was the best set to throw the ball (out of). I didn't have a problem with him wanting to be in the game. We have the job of deciding who to put in the game."

One of the big advantages of going to a bowl is the opportunity to practice younger players that have been redshirting and working on the scout teams. About 15 minutes of Saturday's team period was devoted to younger players.

"We did that today and we will do that in every practice," said Gundy. "We are playing a lot of those guys, so there aren't that many, but the young players will give 100 extra reps before the bowl game -- at least 100 extra reps."

Gundy joked that his philosophy going to a bowl game will be a little different than his predecessor Les Miles.

"Everybody knows Les," said Gundy when asked to think what it will be like with Miles possibly taking LSU to the Rose Bowl to take on his alma mater Michigan. "I feel sorry for the staff. Happy Holidays to ya' all."

He spoke about what he expects out of his team and what he wants for the Cowboys in a bowl experience. Just as it has been with facilities, training table, academic support, and the general conduct of the program, Gundy says going to a bowl game will be first class for the players.

"We are going to maximize whatever we can do for these guys over the next three weeks," said Gundy. "Whatever bowl package (gifts), whatever the NCAA allows financially, we are going to maximize it for the kids and we are going to let them have fun. We are going to practice an hour and a half like we did, let them go home for three or four days right before we go to the bowl game, and let them enjoy this. We are serious about winning this bowl game. I don't know who it is we are going to play. We are going to prepare hard and let them enjoy this experience."

Practices will remain open with the Cowboys working out on Sunday at 3 p.m. The coaching staff will go back on the road recruiting on Monday. During dead week players will lift and condition with practice resuming Friday, and also being held Saturday and Sunday. The schedule will be similar the next week (Dec. 10-16 during final exams) before the players go back to a full practice schedule after finals.

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